It's in the post, Bella

Back in September the Lib Dem conference was blessed by the attendance of Michelle Di Leo from Flying Shatters.

For the purposes of clandestine operations against aviation activists, Michelle now goes by the nom de guerre 'Bella Regazza'. Honestly, I'm not kidding. She imagines herself, perhaps, as a soldier of fortune marching through the jungle of our 24/7 media, a duty free RyanAir gift tie knotted around her forehead as she slices down hippies with her sharpened machete of corporate truth.

Michelle wasn’t undercover at the Lib Dems so she was operating under her real name. At one fringe event she was asked for her opinion on what a safe concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere might be (in parts per million by volume) and her brow furrowed as she mumbled that she didn’t understand the question. "I’m not a climate scientist," she said.

Well, quite.

Our understanding of what the atmosphere can take is improving as the science develops – and the science is telling us that the continued growth in fossil fuel-dependent activities is incompatible with the long-term existence of our civilisation in its current form. The best example of where the research is going can be found in a paper by Hansen et al entitled Climate Change and Trace Gases. Hansen is the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, he’s one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people on the planet, he’s recognised as the world’s leading climate scientist. He really is a climate scientist.

Hansen’s paper says our planet is now in imminent peril. Sorry, that should have been in quotation marks, because he actually says it – he actually says the Earth stands in "imminent peril." Why? Because "recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures."

The unnatural "forcing" of the climate as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases threatens to generate a "flip" in the climate that could "spark a cataclysm" in the massive ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland.

Hansen writes: "Civilisation developed, and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end." He warns us that we can’t afford to continue burning fossil fuels at anything even close to the current rate. "To do so would guarantee dramatic climate change, yielding a different planet from the one on which civilisation developed and for which extensive physical infrastructure has been built," he says.

So how long have we got to sort this problem? About ten years, he reckons.

I’ve just sent Hansen’s study to Michelle - not to her Flying Batters email address, but instead to her secret squirrel inbox, the one where she calls herself Bella when she’s spying on environmentalists. Maybe next time she’s asked the question "what is a safe concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere" she’ll be able to articulate a more coherent response.